"In the aftermath of breast cancer awareness month in the US it is a good time to reflect on where we are in terms of progress in the fight again this disease. I would like to give my personal view here.
In the plus column, I believe, belong some of the achievements of the pink movement, which include raising awareness to a tremendous level for the most common kinds of breast cancer in women, removing much of the stigma of having such cancers for those women, and mobilization of resources for research. I don’t wish to go into the excesses of the pink movement here – others have done so much more thoroughly and eloquently than I could, for example Peggy Orenstein in her powerful piece “Our Feel-Good War on Breast Cancer” earlier this year
I do want to dig a little deeper on the issue of research funding. When you look at what the US National Cancer Institute spends on research in different cancers vs the number of cases in the US, you can argue (as I have on my blog) that breast gets about $200M more than would be expected purely on incidence. I hazard that this comes from the expansion of the number of scientists interested in breast cancer research who then submit and win more grants, and that this is in turn due to additional funding from foundations. If you are a budding new cancer researcher, breast cancer is a good field to enter as funds are relatively abundant. In addition to this direct effect of the breast cancer NGOs, their effectice advocacy has no doubt also positively influenced government spending. I believe significant credit goes to those responsible.
In the minus column, again for me, comes the fact that the loud and proud pink in the media makes it very hard to discuss some of the less recognized and less pleasant aspects of breast cancer. It obscures that important awareness work remains to be done, and that research funds need to be deployed more broadly and more inclusively."